08 October 2015

Special thanks to Marty Chang and Shalom Rubdi for their contributions to this post!

Salesforce’s annual Dreamforce conference ended a couple of weeks ago, and I was one of the nearly 90 Slalom representatives from around the globe lucky enough to make the trip. While most people were able to watch the main keynote online, only a select few could attend the breakout presentations that delved into the products’ upcoming features. But rather than make you watch the 1400 session recordings, I’ve distilled them all into the 10 takeaways you don’t want to miss.

Moscone for Dreamforce

1. All in on the Internet of Things

Thunder was Salesforce’s big announcement for Dreamforce this year, although it is expected to only become available next year. While on the surface the IoT Cloud might be seen as just another piece in the product offering puzzle, under the hood this represents a brand new architecture on the company’s own Heroku platform and other established open source technologies.

2. Lightning is here to stay

The “Lightning” name may only be a year old but it shows no signs of going away anytime soon. Dreamforce saw the release of the AppExchange for Lightning Components, enabling developers to reuse elements as simple as a heatmap or calendar, and support for “Lightning Out”, which allows components to be embedded entirely outside of Salesforce including, interestingly enough, SharePoint.

3. Aloha Aloha

Lightning Experience, a brand new UI and UX paired with its own Design System, was only briefly mentioned in the keynote but represents the culmination of a significant reallocation of resources inside Salesforce. Aloha (“Salesforce Classic”) had certainly overstayed its welcome since 2010, and while the Lightning Experience is still being met with caution, it has the potential for dramatically improving user adoption and experience once its current limitations are ironed out in future releases.

4. Automating through Intelligence

Salesforce bought RelateIQ over a year ago with little to show for it, up until now. SalesforceIQ, although a completely separate platform, represents a major foray for the company into artificial intelligence, and bodes well for another of its recent acquisitions, Tempo.

5. Success for Trailhead

A lot of time and resources have been dedicated to Trailhead since its initial release last year and it shows. To date, there are 50 modules available for admins, nonprofits, and advanced developers alike, and additional trails are currently being released to support end-user training (making our jobs easier!). The Trailhead area was constantly packed at Dreamforce (although the goodies certainly helped) as over 165,000 badges have been earned in the past year alone.

Dreamforce mascot

The Trailhead mascot, Astro, looking good in a Slalom t-shirt.

6. Platform is dead. Long live App Cloud!

Concurrent with the Lightning Experience’s app-based user interface, the Salesforce platform has been renamed to “App Cloud”, bringing force.com, Heroku, and Shield (among others) under one umbrella. Although it is unlikely Salesforce will ever have all of its products and acquisitions on a singular platform behind the scenes, the company’s goal is provide a uniform experience for integrating and managing them all.

7. Keep friends close and Microsoft closer

To anyone who hadn’t been to Dreamforce in the past 2 or 3 years, one of the biggest surprises must have been seeing Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO, demoing his company’s PowerBI analytics offering a few feet away from Marc Benioff. Disregarding the obvious comparisons with Salesforce’s own Analytics Cloud and Microsoft’s Dynamics CRM, the two companies have made some significant strides in their partnership and now have some compelling value propositions to offer.

8. Focusing on verticals

Dreamforce saw the release of two new industry-specific offerings (healthcare and financial services), solidifying Salesforce’s emphasis on vertical markets, or what has been dubbed “Oracle discipline”. Slalom has actually been at the forefront of this recent focus with Customer.Connect, an innovative accelerator for our retail clients that was unveiled just in time for the conference.

9. Admins are the new Devs

Where Salesforce historically split power users into either “administrators” or “developers”, this year’s Dreamforce saw both groups very closely intertwined, symbolized by the close proximity of the Admin and Dev Zones at Moscone Center. This only makes more sense when you consider the recent Lightning App Builder and Process Builder features, as these two tools no longer restrict page and business logic design to programmers.

10. Salesforce is here to stay

All in all, this year’s Dreamforce was again the biggest one to date, both in terms of size and content, and reaffirmed Salesforce’s commitment to its customers and its platform. While no mention was made of the acquisition rumors from earlier this year, it’s clear that the company is not slowing down any time soon — By next year, Salesforce expects to be the 4th largest software company in the world with an outstated goal of reaching $10B in revenue.

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